When we think of clutter, we tend to think of our physical spaces – dirty clothes, overflowing drawers, and disorganization. But clutter also involves what we keep inside our minds, like worrying about things outside our control, focusing on the negative, and ruminating about the past or future. These habits don’t serve our well-being at all. And if we’re engaging in them too often, they can strip us from our energy, creativity, and happiness. If this resonates with you, it’s time to learn how to declutter your mind, so you can find internal peace amid the stress.
How to Declutter Your Mind
1. Challenge self-doubt
Self-doubt often accompanies internal decluttering. And the best way to tackle the core belief that you’re not good enough is to challenge it. For example, every time you want to go after an opportunity, learn a new skill, or do something outside your comfort zone and you hear your mind criticizing your abilities, say, “I hear you, and challenge accepted”. Become obsessed and motivated with proving your brain wrong and showing it that it isn’t always right. You’re capable of doing anything you want, and your brain will believe it too.
2. Create a to-be list
As busy people with several responsibilities, we’re often obsessed with our to-do lists and available time. For example, “How fast can I get to work so I can finish work?” This need to tackle everything as quickly as possible makes us more vulnerable to stress and clutters our minds. Therefore, step back, and ask yourself, “What is my to-be list?” “Who do I want to become?” When you reflect on who you want to be, you probably won’t include someone, often stressed and in a hurry. Therefore, reflect on your answer throughout the day and ask yourself, “Am I acting like the person I want to become?”
3. Separate from rumination
It can be challenging to free yourself from a thought trap. Perhaps you’re analyzing a disagreement with a friend and feel overwhelmed with knowing how to repair the friendship. Whatever the reason may be, the back and forth of rumination can cause you more harm than good. Therefore, separate yourself from its hold with a mindfulness task.
- Every time a thought pops up, visualize a leaf and attach it to the leaf
- Next, imagine the leaf floating down the stream, carrying your thoughts away
- Keep going until you feel calmer
This exercise will help you create awareness of the power your thoughts have, but most importantly, the power you have to not buy into them.
4. Journal your thoughts
One of the best ways to learn how to declutter your mind is to dive into what’s bothering you. Instead of avoiding or ignoring your pain, sit down and let it pour out of you. Journaling will help you release what’s taking space and allow you to reflect on it at a later day for increased self-awareness. And if you’re feeling lost or overwhelmed on where to start, don’t worry. Consider these journal prompts for mental health and either write or type to let it all out.
5. Sweat it out
We all know exercise is great for our physical and mental health. But regular exercise increases our cognitive skills, making us sharper to problem solve and tackle our days. So, when possible, schedule a session like a HIIT workout to sweat out your stress and allow yourself to focus on the present moment. Feel the endorphins and the positive effects happening within your mind and body. You won’t regret it.
6. Learn to meditate
Have you ever noticed meditation is always included as a tip for mental health? That’s because meditation works. It’s scientifically proven to help you decrease stress, manage anxiety, and feel happier. If sitting and making shapes with your hands is not your jam, no worries. You can engage in movement meditation, standing meditation or enlist several beginner meditation exercises to help you practice. You’ll love it when you get started.
7. Notice the wandering mind
Our minds tend to label, judge, and evaluate everything that passes through it. And noticing this wandering can be beneficial. You learn to see you are not your thoughts, and you can control how you respond. For example, close your eyes, and allow your mind to run wild. Notice how it evaluates everything, even the most mundane things. Then, bring your attention to whatever it’s judging and feel the mind-body connection. Do you notice how it influences your emotions? The more you observe the mind and distance yourself from it, the less likely you are to become entangled in its thought traps.
8. Accept what’s happening
If you’re in the thick of stress, don’t try to avoid what’s happening. Instead, bring your attention to your racing mind and engage in a well-known ACT task called acceptance. For example, close your eyes for 10 minutes, and whatever comes up, notice and label, and most importantly, try not to judge yourself. Accept what you’re currently feeling without resorting to self-hate or self-criticism. While it’s challenging, it helps you separate yourself from negative thoughts.
9. Pause and identify
When we’re stressed or anxious, we typically move through our days like mind zombies. We either worry about the past or future, and forget to enjoy the present moment. So, to break up the internal chatter and find clarity, pause and identify. For example, identify several activities or events where you can pause briefly, maybe before eating, upon waking up, or while hugging a loved one. Then use these moments to take a few breaths and bring your attention to your body, physical sensations, emotions, and senses. Stay in the present moment for a little bit, if possible, then resume the rest of your day, checking in to pause and identify.
10. Practice gratitude
After pausing and identifying, take a moment at the end of the day to practice gratitude. It doesn’t need to be a long list and certainly not something that will cause you more stress. Simply identify three things that are currently bringing joy to your life. You can either repeat them in your head, journal them, or enlist the support of a gratitude buddy. If the latter, send your buddy a message or email with your daily list. Having a friend will help you stay accountable and create a stronger bond as you both declutter your minds together.
Remember, decluttering your mind is like decluttering your home. Go slowly with love and care, and be patient. Unraveling what’s bothering you can take time and practice. But if you feel your internal pain is disrupting your overall functioning, consider speaking with a mental health professional. They will teach you how to declutter your mind with continued support and several strategies to free up space and mental energy.
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